About the RFID Special Interest Group

NOTE: The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Special Interest Group was discontinued in April 2014. Please refer to the IFLA Information Technology Section for subject matter related to RFID.


The proposal for an RFID Special Interest Group was first discussed on the occasion of the 69th IFLA General Conference and Council 2003 in Berlin with the open session of IFLA’s Information Technology session “Wireless Technologies for Library Services – RFID in Use”.

Since then, other meetings have been held dealing with this topic e.g. during the mid-year conference in March 2008 of the IFLA Section Core Activity on Preservation and Conservation (PAC), where they were concerned with “Salvage in case of disaster in libraries and archives: How RFID and regular practical training can help to be efficient”.

Another event took place at the Metropolitan Libraries Section of IFLA during the conference in Singapore with the title “Library as a Fusion Space: Possibilities and Opportunities” which concluded that “RFID seems to be the future”. The most recent comment about RFID comes from the latest ITS Newsletter in July 2010.

It was stated that: RFID technology continues to advance faster than the standards for adoption in the library community. A range of concerns exist around current RFID implementations, including those of privacy, security of the tags and longevity. Equally the emerging ISO standards for RFID appear, like the ISO/ILL standards, over-engineered and lacking flexibility in implementation approach (such as would permit ―right-sizing‖ for different library contexts). Both UHF and HF tags have advanced and costs of the technology has reduced. A lightweight tag protocol would permit simpler implementation approaches in smaller libraries who primarily look for stock control. The lock-out of UHF in the current ISO standards is disappointing and may limit innovation in this area.

As a summary it can be seen that up until now, during the latest conferences and meetings held by IFLA, the subject of RFID was more a side issue and that now we could change this situation through the foundation of a SIG into making this a main IFLA topic.

Today our common understanding is that the RFID approach and the underlying technologies are one of the most significant and important challenges facing libraries; offering great potential to enhance front and back office services and strengthening the library position compared to the RFID and LMS/ILS suppliers concerning applications, interfaces and so on. Since libraries first started using RFID systems in the late 1990s there are now about 3,000 libraries worldwide that have identified the advantages of this technology and many more that are planning to introduce it.

At present we have two annual conferences with a special focus on RFID, one took place during the first days of the Frankfurt Book Fair week in October in Berlin (three times) and the other one in the first half of November in London (six times).However, we lack an international platform to discuss this on a continuous basis.

ITS sees a need for an ongoing discussion about this technology and libraries in a broader scope across different approaches.

Mission of the RFID SIG

Some topics, connections and questions concerning this technology are very often repeated in presentations that share a focus on RFID, for example:

  • Is UHF or HF the right technology for libraries as some libraries in Asia and booksellers work with UHF solutions?
  • How important are common data models, thick interfaces and APIs between LMS/ILS and RFID devices, quality management of tags and embedded equipment such as security gates?
  • Which frequency technology will run into the future, HF or UHF?
  • How dangerous is electromagnetic pollution?
  • What are the problems with privacy issues?
  • Could it be an advantage to organise and manage the document delivery e.g. for inter-library loans with logistic support of RFID solutions?
  • Could permanent stock inventory using RFID technology become a reality?
  • How could we organize a better usability of RFID self-booking units?
  • In which RFID-based workflows in a library are outsourcing steps possible?

However, these opportunities and issues are still only known to a small community of technically experienced librarians and the strategic importance of these topics to the library community in general has to be demonstrated. Technologies like these are still at an early stage and the creation of a community of interests among professionals will be needed in order to develop and mainstream them.

Therefore the RFID SIG intends to be the platform where interested professionals could come together and undertake whatever tasks are needed to develop, enhance and facilitate the adoption of RFID technologies in the library community.

IFLA would be an ideal place for sharing our common knowledge of RFID in the library context.

Goals of the RFID SIG

  • To be an open place to discuss subjects related to the topic RFID and libraries, create standards and guidelines and contribute to any other relevant work within and outside IFLA.
  • To strengthen and transform the professional knowledge of libraries in the RFID area by providing training and information to IFLA professionals, thus contributing to IFLA’s strategic plan for 2010 – 2015; to raise awareness among the library community about the relevance and potential of RFID technologies for libraries and to provide training and workshops in order to improve the librarians’ know-how in this area.
  • To market the libraries’ knowledge and know-how to other communities and with the actors of the RFID at large thus acting as the global voice of libraries in this field.

 In order to reach these goals the RFID SIG will:

  • organize and promote events during the IFLA Congresses (RFID SIG sessions, satellite meetings, training workshops, social events);
  • monitor ongoing projects (standards, tools, techniques) within or outside IFLA, and provide up-to-date information and reports using IFLA information and communication channels;
  • organize specific task groups to undertake new projects when needed;
  • bring together a community of professionals using appropriate on-line tools (mailing list…)

RFID, mission statement, goals

Last update: 8 October 2015

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